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Lilly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Last Sunday, we got the sad news that Lilly’s best friend Katie needs a new home. Without bogging down in the details, suffice it to say that Katie’s own shyness/fear issues have impacted her bonds at home. Our hearts immediately turned toward heroism. Where better, we thought, for Katie to live than with US? Lilly loves her. We love her. She thinks we’re pretty neat, too. She often watches us play in the pasture, looking longingly over from her front corner perch. So, despite our rule of being a 2-dog house, we started figuring out a solution. Sadly, there are four members of our family, and one of them exercised his VETO power yesterday.

Enter Ginko — the big, sometimes-not-so-friendly, not-all-that-well-socialized boy of the house.

The problem with working in my profession, where narrative threads unfold daily, is that I’m very good at sewing together stories from pieces. While I laid in bed much of this week, I drafted a happy little life for us all in my medicated and feverish state. While I worried about life with 3 dogs, including one the size of a small horse, the whole thing seemed destined.

Maybe it’s weird, but Tom and I had often talked about taking Katie in “if something should happen.” Where those thoughts came from, I have no idea, but she’s just such a sweetie. And, seriously, Lilly ADORES her, and what would I NOT do to make my Lilly-bug happy?

I felt somewhat human yesterday, so we figured it was time for Ginko to meet Katie. Play dates had always been just between Katie and Lilly since we worry about Ginko’s knees and since he’s not exactly great with other people or dogs. It’s something I just accept about him because he’s such a great, loving dog at home.

BUT, since the BALL trumps everything, we figured our standard technique of introducing them via very specific play would be perfect. He would be focused on the ball. She could play around the edges. He’d see she was fantastic.

That’s how we introduced him to Lilly, and after one grumpy episode, they were fast friends in like 5 minutes.

Things didn’t go as planned.

Ginko could see the two smiling girls waiting for him outside. They’d already been playing for about an hour, before we let Ginko out. He was focused on Tom and the ball. So far so good.

But, as soon as we let him out, he made a b-line for Katie and everything about him had intent (not the good kind). He snapped. She snapped back, then ran away.

We got him focused back on the ball, and he started playing … while I went to console Katie.

But the next chance he had to interact with her, he took up the chase, in a very targeted manner. The good news is that she’s VERY fast. The whole thing scared me. I certainly don’t want Ginko hurting her physically (he is very strong) or freaking her out emotionally.

Tom took Ginko back inside. I kissed on Katie and Lilly, then let them play by themselves.

Tom and I had lunch, then he went out to play with the girls. But, when Katie saw Tom, she thought he had Ginko with him, and she sprinted for the front fence, trying to clear it.

Thankfully, at just 18 months old, she’s still quite gangly and does not have the coordination of the agility dogs all of us know and love, so she did NOT get loose, but it really scared Tom. We know all too well that fearful flee response, and it’s VERY hard to get a dog like that to come to you, especially a young one with an unproofed recall. What if she’d jumped? What if she’d been hurt?

So, I walked Katie home, then came home and cried and cried and cried.

Ginko, for his part, was a whiny, clingy mess after she left. He crawled in my lap, wrapped his neck around mine, and just sat there. At first, I thought he was upset. Then, I thought his knees hurt. Finally, we figured out he snapped a toenail chasing her. Those really hurt!

We’ve always said that our current dogs have the final word on who gets to join our family pack. Penelope Ok’d Cody, then after Cody died, she rejected a Dobie named Gilbert (or more accurately, he rejected her and me). She eventually OK’d Ginko, who was just 10 weeks old.

We had a tough time after Penelope died because Ginko picked a fight with every dog we introduced him to at the shelter. Seriously, he met dozens of dogs and didn’t like any of them. Eventually, we got permission to introduce him to Lilly here at our house, and it went SO well that we assumed the location made the difference.

Not so.

How strong is Ginko’s veto power? Well, if you asked me yesterday, I would have said rock-solid because my primary loyalty and commitment is to my current dogs. He who came first comes first. In fact, I emailed many of my close friends and said it was a No-Go. I went through about a half box of Kleenex last night thinking about Lilly losing her best friend and about how Katie deserves a Champion-of-My-Heart style home.

I’m a total wreck.

But I just talked to Katie’s mom, and she’d like to try again on neutral territory, with the dogs on leash, etc., maybe even get a trainer involved. Do I have the energy for that? This might just be an experiment in how much behavior modification work one girl can handle.

So, lobbying efforts are underway.

I’ve already told Tom that I can deal with one (possibly two) fearful girls, but that he’s in charge of Mr. Grumpy Pants. Coming off of these germs, I can only do so much. And, I just don’t know how much my own soft heart can take.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Roxanne Hawn - March 3, 2009

Thanks, Sue, for the encouragement. If we can’t get it to work without worry, then we won’t do it. For me, personally, I just can’t have tension/worry about fights. It would just stress me out too much.

Sue - March 3, 2009

Hi Rox,
I’m just catching up on this new chapter in your world regarding the possible adoption of the beautiful Miss Katie into your family. You are an angel for trying this and I am hoping like mad that Mr. Ginko gets his grumpiness in check asap! Yes indeed-that gorgeous girl deserves a Champion of my heart style home!!

I have a pack that does not all get along-they can be together with supervision, but it’s really just easier for us to keep certain ones apart from one another (we’ve had a few fights that helped us come to that decision). However, I have had up to 8 dogs together without worrying about fighting, and the introductions were not always peaceful.

I found that the best way to introduce a new dog to our home was to have the new dog behind two baby gates (creating an airlock) so that the dogs could get used to one another visually and via smell before they even met.

Then we would take leashed walks together like you have done, and if there was any question of possible aggression they would then meet off leash with soft nylon muzzles. Sometimes it took just a few hours, sometimes a few weeks.

For what it’s worth, the gates and leashes and muzzles definitely removed a lot of the stress for all of us, dog and human.

Of course, Katie would likely clear any normal baby gate with that athletic and agile body of hers 😉

Hoping that Ginko comes around and you can add that sweetheart to your world. Lilly is one lucky little bug to get a chance to have her best friend come live with her 🙂

Good luck!!!!
Sue

Elayne - February 21, 2009

Interesting that Ginko would have a hard time accepting what sounds like a submissive female. Maybe her fear is making him uneasy? Hard to say.

I’m sure Katie will find a good home if it doesn’t work out for Ginko. Good luck with it all but don’t overface yourself with too many dog issues just so she can have a home, it won’t be fair on any of you.

Dog-geek - February 20, 2009

Oh, you poor thing – I’m so sorry that things did not go smoothly. Definitely try leash-walking the dogs somewhere neutral. If they get to the point where they walk along ignoring each other, plan another walk, starting somewhere neutral and ending at your house. It could still all work out. Hang in there – the dog-geek crew is pulling for you!

Rox - February 20, 2009

I know! As you are so famous for saying, men default to “No.” I guess that goes for some male dogs too.

Leslie - February 20, 2009

Boys!

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